Category Archives: Completed Games

Completed Games – Mass Effect 2

DeveloperBioware

PublisherElectronic Arts

Release Date – 26 January 2010

I finished Mass Effect 2 earlier this year but for some reason never took the time to do a write up. You don’t need me to tell you that this is a great game, I didn’t like the direction the series has gone but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good game. While I would’ve liked if Bioware kept the RPG aspect intact instead of toning down the amount of weapons and items, the story & conversation systems is still something no other game does just as well.

I do like how Bioware try to forward the RPG genre by increasingly meshing it with a third person shooter, it makes sense to make it all seamless. The real strength of the game to me was the interesting characters which now you have a whole new crew you recruit and take side missions from. The conversations are as important to the experience as the game play and aren’t static since you have the option to make moral choices and choose the tone of direction. Action is fun enough with the variety of powers you have at your disposal but there is still something missing that doesn’t make it as fun as other shooters, maybe the shooting mechanic is just not refined enough than games that solely focus on this.

Bioware are making the best modern day RPG’s right now and with Mass Effect 3 coming up  early next year it’s a good time to play and finish ME2 if you haven’t already done so.

Advertisements

Completed Games – Halo 3: ODST

Developer – Bungie

Publisher – Microsoft Game Studios

Release Date – September 22 2009

Halo 3: ODST was originally conceived as an expansion to Halo 3 before being expanded to a full retail release and comes with a separate disk including Halo 3 multiplayer and a new multiplayer mode, Firefight. I was surprised by this game as it now my favourite Halo game so far in terms of a single player experience. It changes up the standard Halo formula by making you play not as Master Chief or even a Spartan, you play as an ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Trooper).With this you have to play the game differently from past Halo games, you have to play more strategically and keep a closer eye on health, and in general be more stealthy because of you deficiencies when compared to the single army of Master Chief.

What I like most about the game is the desolate open city environment that you can roam around looking for weapons and encountering the occasional covenant patrol. Your drop on New Mombasa goes wrong and your team is spread out all over the city, but when you wake up most of the fight has been done and you piece back the events through flashbacks. It’s not just the same mission after mission, you are given time to explore.

The story for me was also more interesting, it isn’t a grand universe spanning tale but instead focuses on one mission from different perspectives. There is also a side story which is told through terminals which play back pieces of an audio recording of the plight of Sadie in the midst of the covenant invasion of New Mombasa. It is relatively short experience (around 5-6 hours) but I like how self contained it is. Music is also a change in pace with a more jazzy sound instead of the usual orchestral fare. It fits with the graphics which is filtered differently because the game is mostly played at night and you have to turn on a filter which makes the game look very cyber punk.

I’m playing Halo Reach now and I don’t think I’m going to change my position of ODST being my favourite Halo game. Definitely pick it up even if you don’t like Halo games, perfect for anyone who is discouraged by the standard Halo games.

Completed Games – Bioshock 2

Developer – 2K Marin/Australia and Digital Extremes

Publisher – 2K Games

Release Date – February 9 2010

The first Bioshock was one of those classics that help defined the current generation of games. The fascinating story and design of the game made it unique and its open ended FPS gameplay got a lot of people interested. The original developers of Bioshock (Irrational Games) instead of making a direct sequel are now making the highly anticipated Bioshock Infinite which garnered plenty of positive buzz at this year’s E3. So instead 2K Games decided to get the project done with the help of a couple of different game studios. 2K Marin was the lead with help from 2K Australia and China while the multiplayer was developed by Digital Extremes (Unreal Tournament, Ps3 port of Bioshock and the upcoming Darkness 2).

Going into it I was expecting it too be more of the same with some minor improvements and that’s what Bioshock 2 turned out to be. I really enjoyed some aspects of the games, in particular the later levels, but there is a lot of repetition here that gets old quickly. It lacks the same sense of mystery that the first had which was expected but is does a decent job setting the story up even though it unfolds in a fairly predictable way. You play as the original Big Daddy, Delta, who awakens to the out of control world of Rapture and is out to find his daughter who is being held by Sofia Lamb.

Playing as a Big Daddy changes up the game a bit but doesn’t change up the core Bioshock gameplay as much as you would expect. Instead of a wrench you have your drill and your other offensive options are the usual weapons and plasmid powers. The big change in the game is the addition of trap weaponry such as deployable turrets and trap sensors which are there to help you deal with defending a position which you will need to do a lot in this game. Every time you pickup a little sister you escort them around to collect Adam (what you spend to upgrade and buy plasmids and gene tonics) and this causes splicers to attack you in waves. The game is still fun and unlike most FPS out there as the choices you have are varied with plasmids still enjoyable to use and the shooting still solid (although a tad dated now). Although the graphics of the game is unimpressive and doesn’t make much of a leap from the original.

The most interesting part of the game was learning more about the history of Rapture and how everything started. The best level of the game for me was Fontaine Futuristics, the company that created all this steam punk tech and the creator of it all Gil Alexander. Alexander created the Big Daddies and when we meet him he has been overload with too much Adam and through videos he instructs you to take him down. Up to this point in the game I wasn’t excited about anything story wise but this level was great. I also look forward to playing the DLC level Minerva’s Den which people have told me to be another great standalone level.

Multiplayer in this game is alright and would be better if the underlying shooting mechanics was better. But you can use plasmids which makes it interesting and the levels are pretty well adapted for multiplayer. It is neat but I don’t think I’m going to regularly play it. I picked this game up for cheap just a few months after release and now it must be around $20, a good price it you want more Bioshock.

Enslaved Odyssey To The West Review (PS3)

Developer – Ninja Theory

Publisher – Namco Bandai

Release Date – October 5 2010

Ninja Theory’s follow-up to 2007’s Heavenly Sword is a loose adaptation of the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West where instead of being set in ancient China the game is set in a post apocalyptic future. People no longer inhabit the big cities which are now overgrown with vegetation, and robots are roaming the land enslaving any human they encounter. The game itself is like Ninja Theory’s past game, an action adventure game with a heavy combat focus but still fairly shallow when compared to Japanese developed action games.

The big draw of the game is the story which was written by film screenwriter Alex Garland (Sunshine, 28 Days Later) with motion capture by Andy Serkis. The game has great production values but doesn’t reach the heights of video game story telling that you would expect from such talent. Not much really goes on throughout the game and although there is an interesting ending I felt there was a lack of scope. The story succeeds more on a broader level in terms of the contrast between tech and nature.

The voice acting and motion capture however is top notch with some smart audio design decisions. The art direction is also consistently appealing giving a perfect sense of an overgrown post apocalyptic world devoid of human activity. The game starts off on a slaver ship which the two lead characters (Trip and Monkey) barely escape from. Trip was abducted from a self sufficient wind powered colony while the origins of Monkey are unknown. When they crash land Trip puts a control device on Monkey compelling him to obey Trip’s orders. When Trip dies, Monkey dies so Monkey is forced to help her return to her colony. The game play hook here is that Trip is capable of distracting enemies but is out of the way when combat occurs. Trip serves as a guide for the most part moving you along on a linear path.

The combat of the game starts of pretty basic and while it does get better there isn’t much variety and depth I have come to expect from character action games. As Monkey you have a staff which you can use for physical combat or shoot projectiles from. There are counters, charge attacks and evading but even playing on hard I just relied on blocking while waiting for an opening to attack. The platforming of the game is similar to Uncharted in that there is a lot of climbing with the same sort of cinematic style. And for a twist Monkey has a hover board (which Monkey calls a cloud in reference to the source material) which he uses later in the game to change up the platforming game play.

While this game was lamented as one of the most overlooked game releases of last year, I could see why there wasn’t much momentum behind the release. It isn’t a blockbuster game and the lack of depth in the combat let it down. It did however deserve to sell better and not fall to deep discounts a couple months after release. I still have good confidence in Ninja Theory and hope they will truly make a critical and commercial hit with their next game, a reboot of the Devil May Cry series for Capcom.

Completed Games – Ninja Gaiden Sigma (PS3)

Developer – Team Ninja

Publisher – Tecmo

This is a game I should have gotten around to playing much earlier as it is 100% what I enjoy about action games. It is challenging requiring quick thinking and fighting game level button combinations and timing. There are definitely some unnecessarily tough enemies but most of them are fair and it is up to you to adapt and learn how to approach enemies differently. I actually didn’t finish the game, I got to the last battle but can’t beat the final boss (unless you’re an expert you need to stock up on healing items which I failed to do).

From the start I can see how this game has built up a reputation of being extremely challenging. There is no combat handholding and you are instantly thrown into a fight which you could easily die from. It took me some time to get a handle of combat system as it requires precise timing, patience and combo learning but it was very satisfying once I got it. The enemies can be unpredictable at first but you learn how to best defeat them after dying multiple time and playing sections over and over again. The bosses are crazy and I got through them by relying on items to heal.

There are some antiquated game aspects that make it identifiable as an Xbox game published in 2004 which make it more frustrating than it should be. You can’t really press start quit to the menu and load a save point, you have work around this by purposefully dying. You also can’t change the difficulty and I got myself locked into a lower difficulty (ninja dog) around 3/4 of the way through the game.

I was surprised about how open some sections of the game is, allowing you to move around finding hidden items or weapons. I was also surprised with the platforming sections which mostly utilising your wall running ability which was a nice change of pace. It is also a pretty long game irregardless of having to play sections over again. If you like challenging action games this is a must play.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma is the PS3 version of Ninja Gaiden Black (Xbox 360) which itself was a re-release of Ninja Gaiden on the original Xbox. This version adds higher res graphics along with a new playable character (Rachel) and levels.

Valkyria Chronicles Review

Developer – Sega

Publisher – Sega

Release Date – October 31 2008

Valkyria Chronicles was one of the few Japanese RPG’s in the past 5 years that actually felt new and innovative pushing forward the genre. It’s mix of turn based and real time combat with an underlying RPG component defied past conventions. Add to this an unique watercolour style art style and an involving story playing out between missions, we get a complete package for any JRPG enthusiast.

The key to the game is the fun tactical combat which feels fresh and makes you actually look forward to the combat. A problem with many RPG’s is that the combat is tedious and repetitive, this isn’t the case here with the various options you have to complete a mission. The combat starts of like a typical tactical RPG where you place down your chosen units for a mission on a 2D map and you are given a certain amount of action points that you can use to move units. But the twist is that once you choose to move a unit it switches to a 3D view and you can actively control it. You have a metre that indicates how much you can move and you get one combat or item use per turn but you are free to move anywhere or take cover.

The weapons in the games are all early 1900’s based weapons like rifles, snipers, and machine guns and the way they work is that you chose a point to aim and accuracy is determined by distance. The only thing I would add is the ability to move your weapon as you shoot like a third person shooter. The game quite often varies up the tactics so you have to make full use of your squad of scouts, shock troopers, snipers, lancers, medics and tanks. They also add new environmental elements that mix up the situation as you progress.

The first thing that quickly becomes apparent when playing this game is the amount of story, the ratio of story to gameplay is quite high but not overly different to other RPGs. I guess I’m starting to get sick of watching dialogue scenes as I get older and will often just read the text instead of waiting for the voice acting to finish (same problem in Mass Effect and Dragon Age). But I do like the animation scenes which are high quality Anime scenes and do a good job of visualising the world in greater detail. The story also doesn’t refrain from pulling any punches and deals with some more mature themes appropriate to a war setting.

The game is around 30-40 hours depending on whether you want to  play the side or skirmish missions. I’m sorry to see the series go to the PSP with two sequels already out but I’m looking forward to what Sega do next in terms of action RPG’s as they have had a good track record with this and the Yakuza series.

Uncharted 2 Review

Developer – Naughty Dog

Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment

Release Date – October 13 2009

Building on a promising first game in the series the talented people at Naughty Dog have done what is the norm in video games, which is to make a sequel that in every way outshines the first. The first game was well received because of the great animation, graphics and characters but it was lacking in gameplay (and some might say fun) down to the frustrating gun combat and the bullet soaking enemies. Now with the sequel they have mostly fixed this and added solid multiplayer and co-op modes to the mix in addition to even more wonderful graphics and animation. Uncharted 2 is a complete package and rightfully deserves all the accolades it received in 2009, it is an amazing game that convincingly combines everything I like about video games.

It is still rare to see a well produced story in video games that you actually care about and the key has been the likability of the characters which benefit from great voice acting and motion capture work. It’s all about the character you play Nathan Drake, although this time there is less Sully, as you follow his enthusiasm to find the mythical city of Shambhala and the lost treasure of the Cintamani Stone. Nathan Drake is just a fun character to play as and control, he’s not a buffed up super soldier, he’s just a geeky treasure hunter getting caught up with the wrong people who want to exploit his knowledge and skills.

With Uncharted 2 I can see how all Naughty Dog’s experience in the past, such as the Jak and Daxter games on the PS2, has helped them created the visual style of the game. The environments are all varied and vibrant with bright colours and a surreal high contrast look. The character models are a perfect blend between realism and the animated style although the eyes are noticeable weird as they constantly shine. The focus on excellent animation tricks the mind into engrossing you in every scene, as I was more excited watching the cut scenes than playing the game.

The gameplay, shooting and platforming, are vastly superior to the first with much more interesting environments to traverse and figure out while having access to a nice array of weaponry. I think the third person shooting is quite good and definitely deserves to be the focus in multiplayer. The puzzles and climbing are a logical evolution of what was innovated with Tomb Raider back in the day but it still could be improved. Maybe a mix between Assassin’s Creed freeform climbing and the highly specific climbing routes in Uncharted 2 could lead to more challenging puzzles.

It took me 12 hours on the hard difficulty to finish the game, although it has taken me months to actually do this. The thing that was holding me back was since the game is linear, I have no problems just finishing a chapter every now and then savouring the experience. Play the game for the experience, story and stunning graphics before the next game in the series comes out and changes up the formula. The third game is set to be released at the end of the year (around November 1st) and is probably going to be the last in the series if Naughty Dog’s past history is anything to go by.

Heavy Rain Review (PS3)

DeveloperQuantic Dream

Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment

Release Date – 24 February 2010

Heavy Rain is ambitious project brought to us by Paris based video game development studio, Quantic Dream, who developed the cult classic Indigo Prophecy/Fahrenheit. Improving on the unique control system and gameplay from Indigo Prophecy they add motion control (via the six axis or move controller) to the mix with much improved graphics and motion capture. While it is still a game, and shares many familiar gaming elements, it is best seen as an interactive drama. You are making frequent decisions controlling and directing your experience in a way that has rarely been done in video games.

I probably had a different sort of experience playing this game than most people since I already had the main plot point revealed to me unintentionally (the identity of the killer). It was still a fun experience but I could imagine it would’ve been much more exciting if I went into it fresh, as I could clearly see the ways the developer tries to cheaply confuse and surprise the player. Despite this I still blasted through the game in two sittings, around 10 hours in total, which is something I rarely do. I was definitely drawn into the story and couldn’t put it down like a good movie or TV series.

The story itself surrounds a series of murders in the US, in the state of Philadelphia, where for the past couple years someone has drowned kids in rainwater during the notoriously rainy fall season. It is a thriller story of the kidnap and murder kind with horror elements comparable to a mix between the movies Saw and Seven. You play as a four characters a FBI agent, one of the victim’s father, a journalist and a private investigator all working to solve the case. This sort of premise fits very well for a game as you switch from scene to scene between these people not having to worry about the in betweens while getting a highly crafted experience.

One aspect of the game that people should know, and I don’t remember being talked much about around release, are the survival horror elements of the game. If you can’t handle these sort of situations in movies you will definitely not be able to handle it in the game as you actually have to do the actions directly via button presses. While you aren’t going to see anything too gruesome the implied pain and suffering can be hard to handle. One example is the clichéd how far can you go situation where your faith is tested by having to chop off a finger. While you can choose to not do most of these trials there are some you are forced to do.

Like I said before the game play is unconventional with the way you move your character the hardest thing to get a grip on. To move you have to hold down R2 and move the left stick which gives you a larger than normal turning radius but the game is designed to not need pixel perfect movement. Left stick by itself controls your head and the right stick is used for interacting with objects. For example to open a door you do a half circle with the right stick or flick in a direction to turn on a light. When it comes to conversations you’ll see floating words above you with a corresponding button press and there are some cool effects when you have to make a quick decision. For action scenes you have to follow the on-screen prompts but don’t have to hit it correctly to continue as it adapts on the fly. I liked the way all this is handled giving me a unique experience expanding on the QTE element that is present in so many games. I didn’t find myself wanting to have more direct control as it was so expertly crafted keeping me trigger ready and engaged as the plot unfolds.

The only downside of the game is the English voice acting which is very poor and has been infamously ridiculed since them. But don’t let that deter you from the game as I find it part of the charm reminding me it is a French perspective on American culture. It is also strange (but deliberate) in the look of the world including items ranging from typewriters, a crazy sci-fi device used for investigations by the FBI agent mixed with mundane normal objects.

I finished the game with everyone alive and some scenes missed out because of the decisions I made. To see ever scene and ending you would have to play through the game multiple times which is probably why it was suggested, by lead designer David Cage, that you play the game just once. But if you are curious you can go back to each chapter and see how situations might play out differently. This is the type of game you have to experience and have in your collection as it is so unique in vision successfully melding video games and film. Why bother playing another shooter when you have the chance to play a game that expands the medium and serve as an example for the capabilities of story telling in video games.

Completed Games – Costume Quest

Developer – Double Fine Productions

Release Date – October 20 2010

A distinctively styled Halloween themed game which started off Double Fine’s foray into downloadable console games. A bit of the appeal of the game is lost to me as the Halloween culture doesn’t resonate with me but the simple adventure/RPG gameplay is fun enough for the 6+ hours of the game.

The premise of the game is that you play as a kid on Halloween night and your sister/brother (depending on who you choose) is kidnapped by candy stealing monsters. If it weren’t for the cute child friendly art style this would be a pretty grave situation. As you go on an adventure to save your sibling you fight by transforming your costume into its fully realised large scale representation such as robots, ninjas, knights or something silly like french fries. The RPG style is turn based and you have pretty much one choice of attack for each of your party members, a button or timing based chance to boost attack power and again for defending. There is very little variation in strategies but it can get tough later on where you will have to utilize your special powers effectively to win a fight. If you lose a fight you just pop back to before the encounter, so it is very user-friendly.

The adventure part of the game is probably the biggest draw as it is open world in the sense that you can do side missions and collect stuff along with the main story missions. The story itself isn’t anything special but there is a certain level of polish to this game that makes it more than tolerable. I like what Double Fine are doing with these downloadable games which explore a single idea that doesn’t need to be full game. It allows them to express their creativity with an original concept and hopefully they are finding an audience with this.

Completed Games – Red Faction: Battlegrounds

Developer – THQ Digital Warrington and Volition

Publisher – THQ And Syfy Games

Free for Playstation Plus members in April, Red Faction Battlegrounds is a top down vehicle combat game that is simple to pick up and play but offers very little depth and re-playability. The key to these sort of games is the multiplayer and for me it was hard to get a game and when I did the connection was patchy (but being in Australia this is often not solely an issue with the game).

There is a good range of training missions and mode variations which serve as the single player. This has some depth there if you are like me and absolutely have to get a gold medal in each mission. It controls fun enough if you get used to the way the vehicles maneuver and your main weapon can shoot far distances if there is some sort of line of sight. The pickup power ups are pretty standard varying from mines, health, and shields. There is the signature singularity bomb weapon which you might recognise if you have played Red Faction Guerilla. It sucks in enemies and eventually explodes which does offer some freshness to the experience. The other change to the standard formula would be the destructible environments which most of the time also explodes and plays a big part in quickly taking down enemy vehicles.

It doesn’t really ties in with the story so I wouldn’t recommend this game if you are looking for that in between game between Guerilla and the next in the series Armageddon. It really is an average game which is so often the case with spinoff titles.